Karenann Terrell, 44
Vice President and Chief Information Officer, Chrysler Group and Mercedes-Benz NAFTA, DaimlerChrysler
Education: B.S., electrical engineering, General Motors Institute; M.S., electrical engineering, Purdue University
What your college professors didn't teach you: "Politics. There was never any mention as I came through school about how to be successful in meeting the political environment. Whether as an entry-level engineer in the plant or a middle manager in competition and collaboration with fellow managers, or as a leader now. The politics in the corporate environment is not even discussed. It is all on-the-job training."
- 2004 Director, managed services and international process systems, DaimlerChrysler Corp.
- 2002 Director, NAFTA IT operations, DaimlerChrysler
- 2000 Director, eConnect platform, DaimlerChrysler
- 1999 Director, eVehicle, e-GM, General Motors
- 1997 Brand manager, future vehicle, Cadillac
- 1995 Lead vehicle engineer, luxury car, General Motors
- 1994 Manager, vehicle support engineering, mid-sized car, General Motors
First automotive job: Engineering hybrid-electric vehicles at General Motors in 1986
Most fun automotive job: "This is it right now. IT (Information technology) has the ability to have the greatest impact in the work of making cars and trucks. In every single aspect of conceiving cars and building cars and selling cars, IT has a role to play."
Biggest mistake and what you learned: "Defining myself as an engineer. I was completely wrong about that. One of my mentors at General Motors helped me understand. It is a definition of what I am underneath an engineer, which is a change agent. After that, my career really took off. I moved from engineering into manufacturing and then into sales and marketing and then into the Internet and then into IT.
"All of those moves were pinned with the understanding that Karenann Terrell was a change agent. I could have been a mid-level manager in engineering all of my career if I had not recognized that mistake and I had not acted on it.
"That is the real value I bring. Once I got that, I realized I didn't have to sit in engineering chairs to do that. I am a huge car enthusiast. It doesn't have to be engineering cars. It can be working on IT or working in sales. There are a lot of opportunities for change in all of those areas.
"It is the change agenda that is truly attractive to me. I came into DaimlerChrysler in 2000, when things were in serious flux. Why did I leave a 20-year career at GM to join a company that is troubled? Because there is going to be tremendous change. I am attracted to things in heavy change and heavy transition."
Proudest achievement: "Managing Chrysler's Internet portfolio from 2000 to 2002-2003. Chrysler was cutting back. The Internet bubble had just gone kaboom. Managing our entire Internet portfolio so that it became part of what changed our company - that was a blast."
Current challenge: "Transforming IT from a managing-technology job into a driving-business-value job. It is not enough to just run the systems of the company. We have to drive the agenda of the company through the use of technology."
On being successful: "I think success is actually built on not thinking like everybody else. That has been my to-date personal recipe for success. That is why I am valued here at Chrysler. That is the real meaning of diversity: taking people who don't think, act or talk alike and valuing their contribution."
What women need to know for success in the auto industry: "It is a lot different than the advice I got coming in. Before it used to be, 'You have to be tough, strong, to be a mover. You've got to persevere in order to move. Grit your teeth.'
"It is not like that anymore for women. The advice today for women is to really know yourself and find the work that is really going to help you contribute the most.
"Women are great communicators. We like to put words to what is going on in our brains. That is a valuable skill to have. We come equipped with success capabilities. But it is finding what you love, hitting your passion and going and doing that. You already have the core skills you need to be successful."
Job to which you aspire: "What I aspire to is to make ever and ever greater contributions in environments of great change. In the auto industry, great change is the only inevitability. There are many, many jobs that will fit that description before I retire. I have gasoline coursing through my veins so I know it will be in the auto industry. I work for a global company with global challenges so this is the best place in the world to work given my aspirational goal."
What you do to relax: "I am a pilot. I own a (Piper) Cherokee. I love to fly. I love all kinds of machinery.
"I love to spend time with cars - with my husband, who works at GM, and my son, who is a budding enthusiast. We spend a lot of time around cars, planes and transportation."